Monday, January 31, 2011

Pulp Fiction Factories: Selling Sin In Sydney

By Nancy Mattoon

W.H. "Bill" Williams writing as Marc Brody.
The Dames In His Death.

Sydney: Horowitz, 1956.

(All Images Courtesy of State Library of Victoria.)

"But I’m just poor, dumb Brody! I can’t write. I’m not in the fiction racket. I’m a wageplug – a slave working for a newspaper. I don’t drive Jaguars or Studebakers, I drive a battered old Chev convertible. All I can do is keep on plugging and plugging, trying to solve crimes that aren’t solved, and at the same time keep out of trouble while I write the story..."

The lament above, from Marc Brody's Sweet, Svelte and Sinful (1959) provides a perfect set-up for a new online exhibit of Australian pulp fiction books from the 1950's created by State Library of Victoria. A half-dozen representative titles from the "golden era for Australian pulp fiction," are part of a much larger online show entitled Mirror of the World: Books and Ideas. The pulps were produced in massive quantities by Australian publishers beginning in the late 1930's, with most written by enthusiastic amateurs willing to sign contracts demanding such insanity as "one 48,000 word crime novel every three weeks for 30 years."

W.H. "Bill" Williams writing as Marc Brody.
Maid For The Morgue.
Sydney: Horowitz, 1956.

The introduction to the pulp fiction section notes that import restrictions on American books and magazines beginning in the 1940's resulted in a "window of opportunity for local publishers to meet a growing demand for American-style fiction." Sydney based Horowitz Publications, now a respectable publisher of glossy magazines and children's books, employed a veritable stable of sleaze slingers in the middle of the last century to churn out "books to order" for the pulp market. Their major competitor was Young's Merchandising Company, which sounds more like a factory than a publisher, because it was.

Don Haring and Des R. Dunn
writing As Larry Kent.
Sweet Danger.
Young's Merchandising Company, 1957.

Series titles ruled the day, each volume bearing the name of a macho private dick, whose hard-boiled adventures were inevitably set on the mean streets of urban America. (In some of the most popular series, the shamus's name served as the author's pseudonym.) The writers of these one-shilling wonders were mindbogglingly prolific. Detective/author "Larry Kent" (nom de plume primarily for American-transplant Don Haring and Queenslander Des R Dunn) lit up his Luckies and got down to cases in 400 separate titles between 1954 and 1983. (At which point Larry apparently left the Big Apple for Scandinavia-- new titles continued to appear there through 1990.)

Audrey Armitage and Muriel Watkins
writing as KT McCall.
The Lady's A Decoy.

Sydney:Horowitz Publications, 1957.

Two of the few fillies in Horowitz's hard boiled stable wrote about 20 novels in just two years under the pen name "K.T. McCall." Audrey Armitage (a professor at the New South Wales Institute of Technology) and her partner Muriel Watkins were described on Decoy's back cover as: "Blonde, beautiful, and with brains." Their Detective, Johnny Buchanan worked for New York City's Silver Star Insurance Company, and never carried a gun. But that didn't mean the books skimped on violence. Decoy begins with Johnny's discovery of a blonde bombshell's disembodied gam: "Anna Karpis had insured her beautiful legs with the Silver Star Insurance Company, and now she was missing...I knew she was dead - I had a leg to prove it."

W.H. "Bill" Williams Writing as Marc Brody.
Write Off The Redhead.
Sydney: Horowitz, 1956.

Between 1955 and 1960 journalist W.H. "Bill" Williams churned out about 80 titles featuring investigative crime reporter Marc Brody. Brody toured the U.S. smoking, drinking, escaping the clutches of double crossing dames, drinking, solving crimes, and drinking. ("Send the lieutenant up… And some liquor. Scotch, rye, bourbon and beer..." Marc Brody in Blackmail Was A Brunette, 1957.) Brody's cases revolved around the newspaper world, and focused on organized crime, police corruption, and the power of the press to put things right. The titles were often the most original parts of the books, for example: Her Column’s a Killer (1955), Dame on a Deadline (1955), The Lady’s Out of Circulation (1957), and Headlines for a Hussy (1957).

Easing of restrictions on book imports and the introduction of television spelled the end of Aussie Pulp's golden era around 1959. But thousands (literally) of these factory fiction titles had been pumped out by then. Meant to be cheap, formulaic, and disposable, these paperbacks are now both rare and highly collectible, especially in pristine condition.


A Horse's Ass in the Saddle, with Henry Alken

by Stephen J. Gertz

"There's nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse," Sir Ronald said. But Lord Reagan never rode Flossie, upon whose back my insides were pureed and my outsides left as an ugly  palette of hematomas. Of my bones and sinews the less said the better.

But I get ahead of myself, as I would soon get ahead of the horse.

I am nothing if not a gentleman, and what is a gentleman if not a skilled horseman, I ask? And so, accompanied by my faithful companion, Sancho, I went for a relaxing ride in the country just outside of London where we could walk, trot, and gallop our steeds without fear of moving violations amidst the clamor and clutter of the City. Traffic's a bugger, Jack.


We mounted our horses at the stable. I was immediately dissatisfied: While the stableman looked on with bloody annoying amusement I attempted to move Flossie off the ten-penny piece she had stalled upon, alas to little effect. It was as if the coin was the last upon earth and Flossie a miser; the nag would not budge. Sancho's horse, apparently a precocious student of geology, was transfixed by the rocks in its immediate path. By the look of him, you'd think the horse a jeweler examining a gem; if the plug had asked for a loupe I would not have been thrown for one.

"Knights - View of the City Road."

Finally, we took off, knights on the City Road. And shortly thereafter, so, too, did the wind, almost taking us off our horses. "No more beans for breakfast," I flatulently noted to Sancho, whose horse, the geologist, looked back at him as if to say, "Hey, Stinky, lay off the Limburger!" The malodorous gale blew out our umbrellas, which we brought along to insure a full day of uninterrupted sunshine. Had we not brought umbrellas a monsoon would have surely engulfed us, its thumb on its nose with fingers wiggling, the universal sign for "na na-na na na!"

"The pleasure of riding in company.
One would stop if the other could."

Nostrils flared and offended our horses took off, alas and appropriately like  farts in a windstorm. We passed a lone gravestone. "The last guy to ride this scrag," I thought to myself as my life simultaneously passed before me. I swear, the horses levitated. Mine had its head to the heavens as if imploring the Creator, "Get this idiot off of me - pleeeze!" It was then that I lost all confidence in my ride, as I suspect Flossie lost all confidence in me. A horse with an opinion cannot be trusted.

"Symptoms of Things going Downhill."

Thus, we soon experienced symptoms of things going downhill, fast, the horses, apparently, of the opinion that, things heading in that direction anyway, the metaphysical should be equally met. While I struggled to get mine moving - the damned dobbin was gazing longingly into the distance as if seeing an end in sight that I was unfortunately blind to and could not enjoy - Sancho's couldn't keep his eyes off of the rocks on the ground in front of him, and I felt sorry for my compatriot: To be ignored in favor of the igneous is an ignominy not soon forgotten.
"The consequences of having plenty of company on the road."

How is it that one can be out in the middle of nowhere with not another human being in sight yet a drayman appears out of the blue, onto the ground, and directly in our path to vex us, throw our horses into a tizzy and us nearly off of them? It was as if our Lord, Jesus, had enlisted Loki, the Trickster, to make our day one for the scrapbook of woe. "You gents need a lift?" the drayman impertinently asked with a degree of evil glee usually associated with Satan collecting on a contract. My soul withered as I slipped my steed's withers.

"Preparing for the Easter Hunt (I shall be over Jack)."

"Whither thou goest?" I ruthfully thought afterward. The question was soon answered: right up to a fence. The horses would have none of it. Sancho's decided to tip-toe and take it one leg at a time. Mine, obviously still smarting from the hatchet-job the horse barber gave his tail (ouch!), tried to eject me from the saddle as he took wing over the barrier. My hat remains in mid-air in that spot to this day, testimony to my being scared stiff. The only part of me not stiff was my upper lip, which had  lost all tone, slackened, and now limply flapped when I tried to speak, making enunciation a challenge, to say the least. But since I couldn't say the least or much of anything else, the issue was moot.

"One of the comforts of riding in company."

We now come to the denouement of our equestrian jaunt into Hell in the hinterlands. Just when I thought that things could not get any worse, a bee landed on Flossie's anus, stung, and thence inspired her to perform a psychotic Highland fling that flung me over the high side and onto my backside. Swept up in the choreography, Sancho's horse joined Flossie, and the two performed a pas de deux worthy of Terpsichore,  if Terpsichore had four legs, a snout, and grazed on locoweed. Sancho bounced twice and rolled before coming to a full stop.

I thought of Shakespeare, Henry V: "When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes."

But the down-to-earth pains of reality stabbed my posterior, all romance bled-out, and I recalled the definition of horseback riding: "The art of keeping a horse between you and the ground."

And then: "Horse sense is what keeps horses from betting on people."

Finally: "Horse sense is what keeps amateurs from riding them."

If only I'd had any. Clearly, Bucephalus would be the death of us.

I grabbed my spare hat from mid-air, Sancho and I dusted ourselves off, swallowed our pride, and let the horses ride us home, total  collapse of our spinal columns a small price to pay for peace of mind.

ALKEN, Henry. Specimens of Riding Near London. Drawn from Life.
London: Published by Thomas M'Lean...,1821.
First edition (second edition, 1823). Oblong folio.
Printed title and eighteen hand-colored engraved plates.
Tooley 52.

The Plates:

1.  One of the comforts of riding in company. H. Alken 1821.
2.  Symptoms of Things going downhill. H. Alken 1821.
3.  The pleasure of riding in company. One would stop if the other Could. H. Alken 1821.
4.  Preparing for the Easter Hunt (I shall be over Jack). H. Alken 1821.
5. The Consequences of having plenty of company on the Road. H. Alken 1821.
6.  A thing of the last consequence. H. Alken 1821.
7.  Delighted. S. Alken del et sc. Augt. 1, 1821.
8.  Perfectly satisfied. S. Alken del et sc. Augt. 1, 1821.
9.  Dissatisfied. S. Alken del et sc. Augt. 1, 1821.
10. Surprised. S. Alken del et sc. Augt. 1, 1821.
11. Displeased. S. Alken del et sc. Augt. 1, 1821.
12. Terrified. S. Alken del et sc. Augt. 1, 1821.
13. 'Taste - View near Knigtsbridge. Drawn and Engraved by S. Alken Septr. 1, 1821.
14. Lords - View in Hyde Park. Oct. 1, 1821.
15. Yeomanry of England paying a visit. H. Alken del et sc. 1821.
16. Fancy - View near Grays Inn Road. Drawn and Engraved by S. Alken Septr.1, 1821.
17. Folly - View near Acton. Drawn and Engraved by S. Alken Septr. 1, 1821.
18. Knights - View in the City Road. Oct. 1, 1821.

Henry Alken (1785-1851) was an English painter and engraver  known primarily as a caricaturist and illustrator of sporting subjects and coaching scenes, with an eye often cocked to the follies of human behavior.

Images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our thanks.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Peek at the U.S. Rare Book Trade in 1933

by Stephen J. Gertz

By November of 1933 the financial crisis that swept the country in 1929 had wrenched the U.S.  into a profound economic depression that was deepening into a miasma with no end in sight. The rare book trade saw prices decline, credit dry up, and client bases contract. Many firms went under.

Goodspeed's, in Boston, established by Charles E. Goodspeed in 1898, had grown dramatically during the Roaring Twenties; by the end of the decade it had three shops and sixty employees.

"With us, as with many others, the late 'twenties were years of great expansion both of staff and premises," George T. Goodspeed, C.E.'s son, who joined the firm in 1925, remembered. The Williams Book Store had gone bankrupt in 1929; Goodspeed's bought its stock and took over its lease.

But just two years later economic circumstances had worsened and now even Goodspeed's - one of the most successful rare book firms in the country -  was feeling the Depression's effects.

"1931, which I think of as the first of the Depression years, found us dangerously overstaffed and but for an extraordinary windfall we should have operated at a loss for the first time in many years," George T. Goodspeed recalled.

By 1933, however, Goodspeed's had, by necessity, slimmed down. It was time to retrench and, significantly, reach out. Studies show that in difficult times, rather than cut back, it is crucial to continue to advertise and market to remain visible, competitive, and viable; spending money to make money is never more important.

And so, amongst other tactics, Goodspeed's placed an ad, 11 x 2 inches, in the November 1933 issue of Fortune magazine. While advertising space rates had declined, this was still an expensive ad to run.

Why that magazine and that issue?

In 1933 only one industry in the United States was booming, indeed, bursting its barrel hoops: The alcoholic beverage trade. The huge sums of illegal money generated by the business during Prohibition had, with Repeal (implemented in 1933) been diverted to legal commerce. The November 1933 issue of Fortune featured a twenty-page in-depth report on the whiskey business, which couldn't distill and age spirits fast enough to satisfy demand. The magazine would, of course, be read by all in the liquor industry, who were doing quite well, thank you, in addition to the moneyed class that Fortune was aimed at; the rich were still, for the most part, rich, even if a polo pony or two had to be sold to help make ends meet and pay the chauffeur. 

Goodspeed's was simply trying to attract the attention and business of the demographic that it depended upon and seek new clients. Fortune was an over-sized periodical that was still using expensive, coated paper stock, though at this time the total number of pages so had declined, with uncoated stock used for approximately 50% of its bulk. It was priced at $1, which, adjusted for inflation, is $16.50 in today's dollars; a very pricey magazine.

The advertisement is quite revealing:

Fortune, November 1933, p. 126.

 Here, Goodspeed's is offering prints from the first edition of Audubon's Birds of America (1833) from $5 to $100 ($82 - $1640 in 2009 money). First edition prints in fine condition now sell for $25,000 - $80,000.

"Audubon Never Drew a Dodo" is certainly a headline for the ages.

They offer Robert B. McAfee's History of the Late War in the Western Country (1816) for $250 ($4,100 adjusted for inflation). A rebound copy now sells for $925, which may be pushing it; it has not fared so well at auction over the last thirty-five years, though, admittedly, it is usually found in poor condition. Fine copies are  near impossible to find.

I can find no auction records for the Coolidge piece offered for $95 ($1560). My guess is that the price, adjusted for inflation, would be around the same were it offered today; at the time Coolidge was fondly remembered for presiding over the 'Twenties speculative boom. "Silent" Cal has not fared  so well in Presidential Americana (or in U.S. history) since then.

Of special note is Goodspeed's promotional publication, The Month, an illustrated overview of books, prints and autographs in general and those in Goodspeed's stock in particular. In bad times, the show must always go on. It is offered to as a "gift" to Fortune readers, a nice  if somewhat misleading pitch - it was free to anybody who subscribed. Goodspeed's simply used the ploy as an attractive, personalized come-on to a readership whose attention, names, mailing addresses, and money it was trying to capture.

Goodspeed's, alas, closed in 1993, just five years shy of its centennial, a victim of rising rents and a lagging economy, an object lesson that, if at all possible, book shop owners should own the buildings they are located in to turn a  short-term fixed/long-term (and potentially disastrous) variable expense (rent)  into a permanently short- and long-term fixed and predictable one, and gain a growth investment at the same time.

"It's hard to talk about it," George Goodspeed, ninety at the time, told the Boston Globe. He wanted to continue the tradition but keeping the bookstore open, he said, became "just too expensive."

No amount of advertising could save it. Fortune no longer smiled.

Reference: GOODSPEED, George T. The Bookseller's Apprentice (Oak Knoll Press, 1996). Excerpted in The Professional Rare Bookseller, Journal of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, 1983, No. 5.

Fortune magazine, November 1933, and advertisement therein a happy discovery courtesy of Kenneth G. Gertz, the author's beloved father, with my deep thanks.

I have a personal interest in advertising for the rare book trade 1900 - 1960. Readers with knowledge and/or in possession of such are encouraged to contact me, with my thanks in advance.

Lost Manuscripts of The Sistine Chapel: From Rome To Toledo To Dallas

By Nancy Mattoon

Image From The Votive Missal Of Urban VIII.
( All Images Courtesy of Meadows Museum.)

The phrase "looted art" has been most closely associated with Hitler's systematic seizure of Europe's cultural treasures--from both institutions and individuals--to enhance the glory of The Third Reich. But historically, the model Hitler followed was that of Napoleon. Upon conquering much of Italy, the Frenchman boasted: "We will now have all that is beautiful in Italy except for a few objects in Turin and Naples." Many of these stolen works of art became the basis for the collection in the Louvre Museum. And not only paintings and sculptures were looted by the army of Napoleon: rare books and manuscripts, many of which were easy to carry and conceal, became a favorite target of French soldiers.

Sadly, another aspect of rare books which made them attractive to looters was the fact that they could be torn apart and trafficked page by page. This was especially true of illuminated manuscripts, which were often sold as single leaves, containing beautiful miniature paintings and elaborate historiated initials. Fortunately, there is sometimes a historical figure who safeguards such treasures before they can be destroyed by mercenary soldiers. Such a man was the Spanish Archbishop of Toledo Cardinal Francisco Antonio de Lorenzana y Buitron (1722- 1804). A magnificent collection of works which he salvaged from the looted Sacristy of the Sistine Chapel are now on display in the United States for the first, and quite probably, only time.

The forty codices which Lorenzana spirited away to his homeland of Spain in 1798 are now the cornerstone of an exhibition at the Meadows Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University. The Lost Manuscripts From The Sistine Chapel: An Epic Journey From Toledo To Rome. Previously on view at the National Library of Spain, the presentation opened in Dallas on January 23, 2010. The exhibition features a broad range of liturgical writings used by the Catholic Church, ranging in date as far back as the 11th century, including benedictionals, blessings, breviaries, epistolaries, evangelistaries, missals, and preparations for mass. But more artistically important than the text of the books are their magnificent calligraphy and elaborate decorative elements. Each codex is a one-of-a-kind work of fine art, entirely handwritten and illustrated, and colored with pigments made of gold, silver, and precious stones like malachite and lapis lazuli.

Frieze with Cardinalitial Coat of Arms
of Cardinal Antoniotto Pallavicini
and Initial T (Te igitur) with the Pietá.

The exhibit is the fruit of more than a decade of research by Italian scholar, and co-curator of the show, Elena De Laurentiis. It began with what she calls, "A moment of great surprise," when she happened upon a photograph of books from the collection of the Biblioteca Capitular de Toledo, which improbably bore the Barberini seal, the emblem of the Italian family of Urban VIII, who was pope from 1623-44. She wondered how books which belonged in the inner sanctum of the Vatican wound up in a Spanish cathedral, and became determined to find out who was behind their mysterious journey. De Laurentiis found that Lorenzana had presented the works to the cathedral in Toledo "in order to save them," and had included a handwritten note detailing their provenance. While 26 of the books remained in the cathedral's library for nearly two centuries, 11 eventually went to a regional library in Toledo and three went to the National Library of Spain.

The Crucifixion, c. 1495-99.
By a Follower of Pietro Vannuccci,
called “Perugino.” (Italian, 1446-1524)
Folio of the Pontifical of Cardinal Pietro Barbo.

The illuminated manuscripts in the exhibition are especially splendid for two reasons. First, the books were originally commissioned for the Sacristy of the Sistine Chapel, which means they were part of a sacred collection accessible only to the Popes, and a few privileged emissaries. These volumes for the elite of the church hierarchy were far more lavishly constructed and illustrated than codices meant for lower level clerics. And second, they are in almost mint condition due the the fact that they were virtually forgotten about, and hence, untouched during the 200 years they remained in the libraries of Spain.

Mark Roglan, director of the Meadows Museum, says of the codices now on display, "These were the most private books read by the popes and cardinals at very special ceremonies. There are some codices here that Michelangelo would have heard or read from... Many of the codices are in perfect condition, and they have provided unprecedented insight into one of the most vibrant historical time periods at the Vatican. This is a very exciting discovery, and allows us to reconstruct one of the most important and valued pieces of papal heritage."

Antonio Maria Antonozzi (Italian, Active 1633-62),
Frontispiece of the Pope Urban VIII, c. 1634.

Folio of the Missal of Pope Urban VIII

with the Mass of Easter Sunday.

Thus far, the Vatican has shown no interest in recovering these magnificent volumes that, while saved from certain destruction by Lorenzana, are clearly the rightful property of the Holy See. The exhibit continues through April 23, 2010, at which time the codices will be returned to the three archives in Spain where they are held away from public view.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hemingway Letter Recounts Near-Fatal Plane Crash

by Stephen J. Gertz

A signed autograph letter written by Earnest Hemingway in the aftermath of two separate 1954 plane crashes in Uganda, in which he and wife, Mary, were injured while on safari, has come to auction.

The letter is addressed to Kit Figgis, who, with her husband, Larry, assisted the Hemingways in the aftermath of the accidents and contributed to an article about their safari that was published in Look magazine, as Hemingway notes. British citizens who lived in Africa during the 1950s, Larry and Kit Figgis were  parents to noted film director, Mike Figgis, who, though born in England, grew up in Africa.

Here, Hemingway provides a  proud laundry list of his injuries while in recovery. The letter, dated March 17, 1954,  reads in part:

"Dear Kit: 

I must have been pretty punchy when I wrote you the enclosed. Sent it as a curiosity you can always sell it for the children. I'll get you the name of a dealer. What I sorted out to, according to…doctor, very practical type, was: major concussion, rupture one kidney, damage liver, collapse of intestines, Paralysis sphincter, 3/4 lost sight in one eye (left) (never any good anyway), Burns head, Brush fire = burns on lips (light), left hand severe, right forearm ditto, abdomen (light), legs (Light). Am beating all raps OK. But you can't beat lives many…Had cable from Bill Lowe that everything sold and 1st installment in Look April 20th on the newsstands…Kit this trip has been a little rugged. All the effects were delayed. Good thing we did the piece when we did although we could have done it the worst days ever saw…If I haven't paid Major…(there are about 2 blank weeks) give him my permanent address 90 Guaranty Trust Co of N.Y. 4 Place de la Concorde, Paris, France and tell him to bill me there…Please kiss my godson…Love Papa."

Of note is that Hemingway is aware that his letters are collectible - within his lifetime; most unusual - and that he knows a dealer who sells them.

Bidding closes today, January 27, 2011 at 5PM at Nate Sanders Auctions, details here.


Image courtesy of Nate D. Sanders Auctions, with our  thanks.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Line of Sight: Book Artist Timothy C. Ely Exhibits at Museum of Arts & Culture

A spectacular exhibition of the artist's books will dazzle and awe.

by Stephen J. Gertz

Binding the Book: The Right into Egypt (1984).
Leather, papyrus, glass, linen, Egyptian soil,
pigments, resins, wax.

Artist Timothy C. Ely creates lavishly painted and drawn, unique manuscript books and limited edition prints integrating Western and Eastern religious and mystical traditions, astronomy, particle physics, cartography, alchemy and sacred geometry, and has developed bookbinding tools and equipment for the 21st century.

Halo Chalice (2005).
Ink, pigments, wax on paper.

Breon Mitchell, Director of the Lilly Library and professor of Germanic studies and Comparative Literature at Indiana University's College of Arts is a huge fan, so much so that he undertook a major campaign to get the Lilly to include Ely's work in their permanent collection.

“To me, what’s happening [with Ely's work] is a sort of meditation on... the way we think and the way we perceive...I see a lot of books — and a lot of artist books. Tim Ely’s looked like nothing else I’d seen before,” he declares.

Materia (1995).
Traditional wood board binding
on five raised cords. Leather, glass,
brass, hand made paper serpent,
pigments, resins, wax.

Nicholas Basbanes, author of A Gentle Madness, the critically acclaimed volume about book collecting, is also an Ely enthusiast.

“I was dazzled by the work,” he says.  “The skill is apparent in everything he does and the thought that goes into it. He is a major player in this world.”

Tables of Aries (2006).
Interior spread, one of six.
Graphite, acrylic paint, pastels, ink.

Ely began his book arts career in 1971 after graduating college with a degree in design and printmaking. He asserts that his inspiration began in the late 1950s, when he was ten years old.

Mercury 9 (1999).
Drum leaf binding, etchings,
polyurethane, pigment, leather, wax.

"I had this archetypal dream where I saw a book - it was about ten, twelve inches square - just full of drawings and instructions on how to build things," he says. "And in that dream, I held this book and I thought, 'With this book in my hand I could build all these devices.' I awoke and, of course, no book, and so I tried to make it. Sometimes I think I'm still trying to make that book."

Black Maps (1996).
Tongue-in-slot board attachment,
leather spine, mahogany boards,
acrylic paint, and metals.

His work is extraordinary; we hope he keeps trying to make that book.

Here's a lengthy video about Ely and his work:

"Line of Sight" is currently showing at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (MAC) through April 16, 2011, 2316 W. First Avenue, Spokane, WA.

Read a full account of Ely, his work,  and Line of Sight here.

Images courtesy of Timothy C. Ely, with our thanks.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two Gals, Two Guitars, & Rare Books

by Stephen J. Gertz

Above, a nightclub-lounge act, two ladies clearly aiming for the  Gina Lollobrigida look. The time: 1955-1958, the years that Fender produced its 3/4 scale Duo-Sonic electric guitar finished in Desert Sand with maple fretboard and gold anodized pickguard, the ax in the gals' hands.

Jeepers creepers, who are these ladies who appear to have been slipcast into their gowns, the contours of their guitars so lusciously conforming to the contours of their bodies, the embodiment of pure, fretted pulchritude?

We don't know. Though obviously a publicity shot the photo is completely without identification.

Yet in a reverie inspired by Gina Lollobrigida in any movie 1955-1961, I imagine them as Belle and Bonita, The Book Sisters, strumming and singing the praises of rare books, the lyrics telling their tale in a stirring medley that begins deep in the Mississippi Delta and migrates to Tin Pan Alley and The Great White Way:

Woke up this morning,
Looked 'round for my shoes,
You know I had them mean ol' rare book blues.
Woke up this morning,
Looked 'round for my shoes.
Boy, you know I had them mean ol' rare book blues.

People tell me
Rare book blues ain't bad.
Ooh, it's the worst ol' feeling
I ever had.
People tell me rare book blues ain't bad.
Boy, it's the worst ol' feeling
Ooh, chile', I ever had.


They'll be swell, they'll be great,
All ancient rare books, color-plate.
Startin' here, startin' now,
Baby, everything's coming up rare books!

Stop the press! Here's the news!
You've got nothing to do but peruse.
Baby, everything's coming up rare books!

To be winning buy that book while a chance.
Head is spinning,
In-san-i-ty's just beginning!

Title page! Colophon!
From the first leaf to last it's a hon!
I can read. I can see.
Has no flaws: Whoopteedee!
To snag that book would be an awesome coup!
Baby, everything's coming up rare books for me and for you!


How much is that rare book in the window?
The one that says First Audubon.
How much is that rare book in the window?
I hope it won't cost us a ton.

We may pool our dough for this rare book
And forget our expenses, like rent.
This book looks so forlorn and lonesome.
We must take it home, heaven-sent.

Yikes, we just had a bold revelation.
The money involved is too swank.
To mortgage the house is of no use;
We'd still have to rob a large bank.


The book I love
Is in your eyes.
A book so rare, I prize.

The book I love...
Is bidding so much more than you

A crime to answer for?
Yet when the hammer fell,
Well, it knocked me to the floor.

I can hardly wait to hold it,
Feel my paws upon it.
How long I have waited,
Waited just to own it
And now that I have found it...


S'wonderful! S'marvelous!
Rare books are made for me.
S'awful nice! S'paradise!
Rare books I love to see!

They've made our lives so glamorous,
Life used to be so sulfurous, scabrous.

S'wonderful! S'marvelous!
Rare books are made for,
Rare books are made for,

Yup, that's the world of rare books: Glamorous for all concerned, a universe of glitz and  glitter with all edges gilt. Rare booksellers dressed in gowns and tuxedos (though generally not at  once), posh collectors wet with money sipping dry martinis to prevent accidental damp-stains to their books, and rare book librarians constantly rubbing shoulders with The 400 in the course of their daily lives. 

Ain't rare books grand?

N.B.: Isn't it about time that rare booksellers hire trade show models to pitch their wares at Book Fairs? If still alive, well-preserved and active, I suspect The Book Sisters can be booked for the occasion. Or, Vanna White, should her current job end its run.

Apologies to Robert Johnson, Stephen SondheimBob Merrill, Hal David, and Ira Gershwin.

Image courtesy of Fretted Americana, Inc., with our thanks.

Anyone with knowledge of the true identity of these gorgeous guitar proto-glam-rock gals are is encouraged to contact Booktryst.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Apocalypse Now, and Then: Earliest Known Script Surfaces

by Stephen J. Gertz

A very early draft shooting script, the earliest known, dated December 5, 1969, of Francis Ford Coppola's Viet Nam epic, Apocalypse Now, has come to market.

The screenplay was the property of actor Lee Marvin, who Coppola  solicited to portray the role of "Colonel Karnage," a character that would be renamed "Colonel Kilgore" and ultimately played by Robert Duvall in the classic film that was eventually produced, and released in 1979 - a full ten years after this draft was written.

Accompanying the script, ultimately co-written by Coppola and John Milius, is Coppola's handwritten note to Marvin:

"Mr. Lee Marvin / We'd like you to play the part of Colonel Karnage in Apocalypse Now. We're an independant [sic] company in San Francisco financed by Warner Bros. It's a good script. / Sincerely / Francis Ford Coppola."

Coppola was working on the project before writing and/or producing or directing THX-1138, American Graffiti, Patton, The Godfather, Godfather II, and The Conversation; he conceived it in the founding year of American Zoetrope, his ambitious production company. Indeed, the script is bound in an American Zoetrope wrapper, possesses the corprorate logo on the title page, and the accompanying note was written on the company's embossed stationary. Milius is given sole credit here; he later  shared credit on the final script with Coppola, and Michael Herr would receive a separate credit for his narrative dialogue. Coppola loosely based the film upon Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, presumably tossing out Milius's original idea and title: The Psychedelic Soldier.

"If I say it's safe to surf this beach, then it's safe to surf this beach...
Charlie don't surf!"

While it is difficult to imagine anyone other than Duvall in the role of Kilgore - he wholly possessed it - it must be admitted that Lee Marvin, an ex-Marine wounded during the Battle of Saipan in WWII, would have been equally commanding in the role as the napalm- and surf-lovin' Lt. Col. Kilgore, though, granted, Marvin, in his mid-fifties at the time of the film's production, would have been a senior, silver-haired surfer.

The movie received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best, Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.

The script is being offered at $15,000 by Royal Books of Baltimore, MD.

[MILIUS, John]. Apocalypse Now. San Francisco: American Zoetrope, Dec. 5, 1969. Earliest known draft. Quarto. ALS is 11 x 8.5 inches on Zoetrope letterhead.

Image courtesy of Royal Books, with our thanks.

This Rare Medical Book Is A Real Knockout

By Nancy Mattoon

This famous painting of Hanaoka Seishu shows him removing
a tumor from the chest of a fully anesthetized male patient.
From: Hanaoka Seishu's Surgical Casebook, ca. 1825.
(All Images Courtesy of The National Library Of Medicine.)

Imagine the absolute horror of having major operation, say the removal of a cancerous tumor of the breast, without anesthesia. A state of blissful unconsciousness during surgery is taken for granted now, but the drugs which gave patients the miraculous ability to "sleep" (relatively) safely through invasive procedures have only been in common use for about 150 years.

The Regal Daughter of A Samurai,
Who Came To Hanaoka For Removal
Of A "Blood Tumor" From Her Jaw.

The American National Library of Medicine (NLM) has recently digitized a book recording what is generally believed to be the very first use of general anesthesia during a surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. It is a manuscript containing hand-painted pictures, commissioned by Hanaoka Seishu, a Japanese physician who perfected an herbal formula to induce unconsciousness in 1804. (By contrast, ether was not used as a general anesthetic in the West until 1842.) The text is known simply as Hanaoka Seishu's Surgical Casebook (Japan, ca. 1825).

A Patient Points To A Growth,
Which Appears To Be A Cancer Of The Ear.

Hanaoka was born in what was then the completely closed society of Japan in 1760. Japanese rulers had expelled nearly all Westerners, and Western books, from their island nation in 1639, fearing the spread of European culture and religion. But Japan's ban on outside influences would not be completely successful. A few Dutch traders in isolated settlements remained, and they insisted on bringing in their own medical men.

A Merchant's Wife With An External Tumor On Her Back.

Japan's doctors had always been curious about the medical and surgical practices of the West. (Japanese medicine of the time was based on the Chinese model, in which surgery was banned as "body mutilation," and anatomical dissection of any kind was strictly prohibited.) Hanaoka was one of a new breed of Japanese practitioners who managed to be educated in both the herbal medicine of the East, and the "Dutch-style" surgery of the West.

An Elderly Patient,
Who Appears To Have Cancer Of The Tongue.

Japanese attitudes towards surgery had changed by the time Hanaoka started his practice in about 1785. Translations of Dutch anatomy books into Japanese had begun to appear, and clandestine dissections of executed criminals confirmed their accuracy in depicting the internal workings of the human body. But in Japan, as in the West, surgical practice remained horrifically painful. Patients had to be physically restrained during operations, as alcohol, cocaine, and even morphine could not completely block the pain of the knife without resulting in a fatal overdose.

A Patient In A Lovely Kimono
Seeks Help For A Facial Tumor.

Almost immediately upon finishing his studies, Hanaoka began experimenting with a formula for an herbal anesthesia. He found no mention of pain killers in his Western medical texts, and his Chinese texts included many concoctions made from poisonous plants which could be topically applied to the skin to numb a small area, but which would prove fatal if swallowed. What he sought was a medicine which could deaden pain in the entire body, and induce unconsciousness, without resulting in the death of his patient.

A 56-year-old Woman With An
Undiagnosed Facial Malformation.

Twenty years of experimentation followed. Hanaoka combined various herbs, at various doses, and proceeded to study their effects on cats and dogs. Repeatedly, the drugs were either too weak to mask the pain, or so strong they caused permanent nerve damage or death. Ultimately, he believed he had a workable formula, but needed a human "guinea pig" to test for the proper dose.

Breast Cancer Patient Kan Aiya,
Whose Surgery Was The First Ever
Under General Anesthesia.

It is said that both Hanaoka's devoted wife and his aged mother volunteered to be his test subjects. In the end, Hanaoka chose to experiment on his wife, reasoning (rather chillingly) that he could always remarry if he lost her, but he only had one mother. Tragically, after one too-large dose of anesthesia, Hanaoka's wife became totally and permanently blind. (These events were later fictionalized by Japanese writer Sawako Ariyoshi, in her 1966 novel, The Doctor's Wife. The novel became the basis for Yasuzo Masumura's 1967 film, The Wife of Seishu Hanaoka .)

The Surgeon Locates the Tumor With His Left Hand,
and Uses the Scalpel In His Right
Separate the Tumor From the Surrounding Tissues.

Finally on October 13, 1804, Seishu Hanaoka successfully anesthetized 60-year-old Kan Aiya with his herbal formula before removing a cancerous tumor in her breast. She survived the surgery, and noted that she had felt no pain, and had no memory of the procedure. Sadly, she died six months later, as the cancer had been removed too late to prevent its spread to the rest of her body.

The Surgeon Completes The Lumpectomy,
By Lifting And Removing The Tumor.

Hanaoka went on to perform at least a 150 operations of a similar nature, and taught thousands of Japanese students his techniques. The surgical casebook digitized by the NLM is a documentary record of those operations drawn by an unknown but highly skilled artist, possibly with medical training himself. Interestingly, some of the active ingredients of Hanaoka's formula, such as scopolamine, hyoscyamine and atropine, are still used in medicine today. His actual formula, which he called Tsusensan, remained unknown in the West until after the development of synthetic anesthetics, such as ether and chloroform. At that point, his herbal concoction was seen as inferior, and was totally ignored.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Art of War, Lakota Style

By Nancy Mattoon

A Sioux Warrior Captures Cavalry Mules.
Image from The Half Moon Ledger.

(All Images Courtesy of Harvard Houghton Library and
Peabody Museum Of Archeology and Ethnology.)

Sometime around 1865, prospector J.S. Moore purchased a small accounting ledger in which to keep track of his money. He was attempting to make his fortune near the Bozeman Trail, which connected the gold rush territory of Montana to the Oregon Trail. Unfortunately, the area was smack dab in the middle of the lands in dispute during Red Cloud's War (1866-1868), a series of battles fought by a combined force of Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Sioux against white men threatening bison herds near the Powder River. Moore became collateral damage in that fight. The prospector was killed, and his ledger fell into the hands of Lakota Sioux warriors.

At the time of Red Cloud's War, the Plains Indians had just become familiar with the white man's tools for writing and drawing--graphite, colored pencils, ink, and, of course, paper. In Native American hands, Moore's accounting ledger began a second life as the pictorial battle record of a band of Lakota warriors. At least five unidentified Sioux braves created drawings depicting their feats of derring-do on its pages. In total, 77 drawings of their exploits were added to the ledger, before the violence between the Native Americans and the white men once again caused the small book, about the size of a mass market paperback, to change hands.

A Lakota Warrior Under Fire,
Bearing A Shield Decorated With Celestial Symbols.

As legend has it, in the aftermath of the Battle of Little Big Horn (1876), an Army private stumbled upon a funerary lodge in a deserted Lakota village. One of the dead lying in state there was said to be a great Sioux warrior, Half Moon. (In fact there is some doubt as to whether Half Moon ever existed; his name has never been found in any Sioux tribal records.) Next to his corpse, it was said, was a mail bag, atop which was the ledger. The soldier took the book as a souvenir, and it became known thereafter as The Half Moon Ledger. Sometime later, the soldier apparently learned the book was valuable, and placed it up for sale.

The next recorded owner of the ledger was a Chicago newspaperman, James "Phocion" Howard. Howard was a shrewd businessman, who knew how to make a quick buck. Rather than reselling the book as he originally purchased it, he added such trappings as a leather binding tooled in gold, and a title page proclaiming it to be: The Pictorial Autobiography of Half Moon, an Uncpapa Sioux Chief. Who was killed in the Battle of the Rosebud, June 18, 1876, And who with Four other Chiefs was found lying in State on the Custer Battlefield June 28.

A Triumphant Brave Herds Horses
Captured From The U.S. Cavalry.

Howard also penned an illustrated introduction for the book, purporting to explain the meaning of the warrior's drawings. It contained a fearsome portrait of an angry chief identified as the famous warrior, "Half Moon." (According to Castle McLaughlin, associate curator of North American ethnography at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the text added by the newspaperman is notable mainly for revealing "how poorly Howard knew his subject.")

Howard's "improvements" were meant to make the ledger more attractive to buyers. Apparently, it worked, as this now curious amalgamation of two cultures was purchased for an unknown sum by a New York City rare book dealer. In the ensuing years, the volume made its way to Boston. Finally, in 1930, it was donated to Harvard University's Houghton Library by the sister of an alumnus, Harriet J. Bradbury. As is sometimes the case with volumes in large academic libraries, the ledger remained overlooked and essentially unexamined for nearly 80 years.

A Lakota Brave Rides A Blue Roan,
Wearing A Coat Taken From A Cavalry Soldier.

Early in the 21st century, Harvard librarians came to realize that The Half Moon Ledger was something special. Ledger drawings by Native Americans are not uncommon, but to find a large number of them in their original context is extremely rare. The volume also proved of great interest to the University's Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, which houses one of the largest collections of indigenous artifacts in the Western Hemisphere. In concert with the Houghton librarians, curators at the Peabody and members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe began to study the ledger's historical significance in depth.

Peabody curator Castle McLaughlin already had a particular interest in one aspect of the ledger. She was the co-founder of the Nokota Horse Conservancy, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving blue roan horses, descendants of the breed revered and immortalized in the Sioux warrior's drawings. Researching the breed for three years at the behest of the National Park Service, McLaughlin connected today's surviving animals directly to their ancestors ridden by the Lakota Sioux Chiefs.

A Chief In His Battle Finery Astride A Blue Roan.

Through her work with the horse conservancy, McLaughlin also formed a friendship with Lakota tribe member Butch Thunder Hawk, a respected contemporary artist, and tribal arts instructor at the United Tribes Technical College in North Dakota. Together McLaughlin and Thunder Hawk--along with Peabody exhibits director Sam Tager-- created an ongoing exhibit now on display at the museum, which is centered around The Half Moon Ledger.

The multimedia exhibit is entitled "Wiyohpiyata": Lakota Images of the Contested West. The word "Wiyohpiyata" literally means "the direction West" in the Lakota language, but it "is both a celestial orientation and a concentration of natural and supernatural forces," according to curator McLaughlin. As the exhibit's brochure states, "In traditional Lakota belief, Wiyohpiyata... is one of four sacred directions that are associated with a color and animal spirits. Wiyohpiyata (black/blue) is home to the spirit of thunder and lightning, Wakinyan, the Winged-One or Thunder Bird. It controls the winds, the storms, and warfare. All things from the West are mysterious or holy."

A Sioux Courageously "Counting Coup,"
Or Touching The Enemy With His Bow.

Among many artifacts, contemporary art works, and audio and video installations on display for the exhibition, are a complete facsimile of The Half Moon Ledger, reproductions of selected pages, and the ledger itself. Due to extreme fragility and risk of damage from light exposure, the ledger is carefully opened to a single page, which is secured with a thin strip of archival-quality plastic. The page is turned every three months by Houghton Library Lake Conservator Mary Oey. Pages are only allowed to be on display--under glass--after they are monitored for color fading by a spectra photometer.

The Half Moon Ledger will remain on exhibit at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology through early August of 2011, at which time it will be returned to the Houghton Library. But in keeping with its early history of passing from hand to hand, there's a chance that the volume will leave the Harvard library for good. The book’s reputed discovery at a grave site may make it subject to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. If Sioux and Harvard researchers conclude that the legend of its discovery in a funerary lodge is true, The Half Moon Ledger must be returned to the Lakota tribe.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Who is the Mystery Pre-Cosway Binding Binder?

by Stephen J. Gertz

[COSWAY-STYLE BINDING]. Etrennes historiques,
 ou mélange curieux d'anecdotes Instructives & nécessaires
 sur les differens pays de l'univers...
Paris: Cailleau, 1775.

A binding of historical significance to the art & craft, in Cosway-style 130 years prior to J.H. Stonehouse, a director of the bookselling firm of Henry Sotheran, introducing Cosway bindings (in collaboration with binders Riviere & Son and artist "Miss Currie" and named after eighteenth century miniaturist Richard Cosway), has come to market.

It is bound in blond morocco with smooth spine decorated with small golden fleur de lis, with colored metal inlays surrounding a central engraved medallion composed of several landscape scenes in miniature and finely colored with gouache, all framed  in black morocco  adorned with carved and gilded iron with a thin transparent sheet of mica.

The binder is, alas, unknown but this anonymous visionary appears to have actually developed the Cosway-binding concept. I am aware are of only three other similar examples of these extremely scarce bindings, one of which is seen below:

[COSWAY-STYLE BINDING]. Exercice du Chrétien...
Saumur: De l'Imprimerie de Francois-Paschal-Jean-Marie de Gouy, 1774.

The above is in full contemporary vellum with elaborately gilt decorated red morocco to boards  and spine, inlaid with 20 colored metal disks within pierced roundels, and with the upper and lower boards each possessing three hand colored miniatures in gouache under original mica.

Both of these extravagant bindings, contemporaneous with the books' publication  and obviously for owners of means, appear to  have been wrought by the same unknown hand; the miniature paintings certainly were. The combination of  metal work and mica-covered miniatures is so unusual for late eighteenth century French (or any other nationality) binding that it is not unreasonable to conclude that each was produced in the same atelier. But whose?

Fast forward to the early twentieth century: It may be that J.H. Stonehouse came across one of these scarce bindings from the last quarter of the eighteenth century and, thus inspired, initiated the Cosway binding project.

Anyone with any further knowledge of these pre-Cosway-style bindings is encouraged to provide whatever information they possess. We thank you in advance.

Image of Etrennes historiques... courtesy of Librairie Ancienne Denis, with our thanks.

Image of Exercice du Chrétien... courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our thanks.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hooking-Up Through the London Review of Books

by Stephen J. Gertz

Volume 33 No. 2. 20 January 2011.

It's been awhile since we last visited the London Review of Books to further our cross-cultural anthropological studies on the mating behavior of book lovers.

While the weather has been hell this month it's comforting to know that the climate for the literary love-lorn has remained comically and pleasantly tropical with delightfully bent isobars manifesting themselves on the map.

As usual, we have removed all identifying and/or contact info to protect both guilty and innocent.

From January's issue:

Not an esoteric advert, just a sincere request. New York Jewish writer/lecturer (61) living in NW London, with beauty, style, wit and wisdom, a great smile, an exuberant spirit and an understanding heart – plus lots of faults too numerous to mention – seeks an honest kind London-based man for laughter, intimacy, adventure and mutual shelter from the storm. Enjoying the storm also works. The package you come in is less important than the soul shining through and the laughter in your eyes. Whaddya say?

[We like the smooth, clichéd personal-ad prose followed by the throw-away vernacular New Yorkism at its close. It's as if Eliza Doolittle tossed-off an 'Ow's that, G'vnr! after demonstrating perfect locution in the Queen's English to Professor Higgins].

My therapist has given me such a good rate I can afford to indulge my bouts of infidelity and still deal elegantly with my guilt. Attached but unfaithful London male 60 seeks female counterpart. I promise an intensity of sexual joy unexpected in the LRB.

Female, 34. All own limbs. Seeks man with low priorities.

So ouroboros has finally caught up with these ads. Not so me, M, 37, whom you’ll still find chewing through vegetarian nacho combos and nothing else at retail park restaurants across the North West long after this column has devoured its own head. I’ll be the one beneath the ‘Le Chat Noir’ poster refusing to pronounce ‘sangiovese’ correctly and challenging the waiter to fisticuffs.

Sexually I’m not like Switzerland at all, even although I live there. Monolingual M (53), Lausanne based, seeks F for the usual shenanigans.

Alas, my “Why Mahler?” advert lacked clarity: responses from women, lovely women, but women nevertheless. And I am a woman seeking a 60ish man, as described in the advert. Male responses welcomed.

American, M, early 70s though most don't believe it. Credit goes to the Canadian Air Force drills that have started my days for 35 years. A creature of habit, and so hope to continue to take my women in olive tones.

Fantasy made real? Strictly sexual woman will push your boundaries.

[Considering the publication it's not clear whether she means evolving the reading habits of a date from the Bible to the works of the Marquis de Sade, or same sans the reading].

And so ends another episode of Love is a Many-Splendored Thing. Roll theme music:


We've mined this mother lode before. Why? Because the vein of gold in them thar hills runs deep:

"Have Books Destroyed Your Life, Too?"
London Review Of Books Personal Ads, Redux.
Miss Lonelybooks, Revisited.
Love In Bloomsbury.
Bibliophiliac Bleeds Books, Seeks Same For Mutual Bloodletting.
Are Americans Ruining the London Review of Books Personal Ads?
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